As much as we all like running, sometimes it’s fun to add in some cross-training, or even take it a step further and compete in an entirely different sport. A popular option for mixing things up is to try a triathlon.
Triathlons don’t have to be intimidating. Yes, it means getting comfortable on the bike, and even open water swimming, in most cases. But with the right type of training and prep, anyone can tackle a short, or “sprint” triathlon.
The typical sprint distance is going to be about a half-mile swim, 15-mile bike, and 5k run. These distances can vary by a few miles here or there, however. But in general, those are the distances you need to train for in order to complete a sprint.
For many people, the swim is the most anxiety-inducing portion of a triathlon. Not comfortable in water or worry that you aren’t fast enough? The best way to overcome that is to start with a few lessons. A good swim instructor will help you develop a stroke that is more than adequate to get through a sprint. Find one at your local pool and sign up for a series of one-on-one or group lessons.
Another option for improving your swim if you are already a capable swimmer is to join a local Master’s swim program. These group workouts are typically around an hour long and are coached by one or more experienced swim coaches. You’ll not only improve your stroke mechanics, but your speed as well.
Next up, of course, is the bike. You don’t need a $5,000 machine to get through a sprint tri. For your first race, if you own a hybrid you’ll be just fine. If you have a road bike, even better, but remember, it doesn’t have to be high end.
The bike is where the majority of your time will be spent during a triathlon, so it pays to spend the majority of your training time here as well. Add in a weekly long ride, much like your long run, as well as some speedier sessions or hill repeats, and you’ll see improvements.
You’re already a comfortable runner, so this is a good time to dial back on the number of runs you’re doing in order to make time for the other two sports. But do schedule in a weekly “brick” session, which is a bike ride followed by a short run. This will help your legs get used to running off the bike, which is an entirely different sensation than just running alone.
Finally, the fourth leg of a triathlon is most definitely the transition between sports. This is something you want to practice a few times before the big day. Lay out all of your gear in the order in which you’ll use it, and then practice coming out of the water and heading off on the bike, followed by dismounting and starting the run.
On race, day, put all the pieces together and enjoy the event. I can guarantee you this —you’ll have a ball. Triathlons spice things up and make racing a real treat.